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International dialect study puts Dundonian to the test

Abertay University and RWTH Aachen University in Germany carried out the experiment.

Language: Researchers studied how the brain detects a dialect.
Language: Researchers studied how the brain detects a dialect.

A Scots brogue is at the centre of new international research that shows the brain treats a dialect and a language in the same way.

Abertay University partnered with RWTH Aachen University in Germany to study how quickly the brain can react when asked to switch between standard speech and regional dialects.

During research in Dundee, study participants were given a list of both English and Dundonian words that then appeared on a colour-coded screen in randomised order.

Depending on the colour, they were asked to say that word in either English or Dundonian.

For example they would respond "house" if the image was coloured green or "hoose" if the image was blue.

Other words included in the survey were girl/lassie, armpit/oxter, heart/hert, sausages/sassages, ears/lugs, and children/bairns.

Researchers measured the length of time that elapsed from an image appearing on screen to the participant saying each word, calculating how long each person took to switch between dialects.

The same experiment was carried out in Germany using the regional Öcher Platt dialect.

Both studies found it took participants longer to name pictures when they were asked to move from speaking one variety to another.

It was also discovered that this difference remained the same for people comfortable with both English and Dundonian, regardless of which direction the switch went.

Project leader Dr Neil Kirk said: "One explanation for this is that both varieties are always active but in order to speak one of them you need to suppress or inhibit the other variety.

"More cognitive effort is required to suppress a stronger variety and this creates a delay in being able to activate it again."

The study concluded that when compared to previous language research, the results of the study showed bidialectals displayed the same pattern as bilinguals who have two equally strong languages, which suggestions that different dialects are stored in the brain in similar ways as different languages.

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